RE: being too picky?

Subject: RE: being too picky?
From: "Chris Knight" <cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 14:00:52 -0700

Megan E. Rock wrote:

>> ARGH! We're not talking simply grammar, we're talking technical
>> The point is, I need him to verify the technical accuracy of the
>> based on the grammatical correctness my co-worker implemented, but I
>> the feeling that in many cases the SMEs simply aren't aware of the
>> that can alter the meaning of the sentence.

You are correct. That is YOUR job.

>> If the SME doesn't think there is any room for the reader to
>> will the user pick up on the different possible interpretations we
writers see?

I'm not sure what "possible interpretations" you are talking about, but you
can bet on the fact that the SME will "understand" even when the meaning
actually in the text is incomplete or erroneous.

>> I sometimes ask myself, "If the original version made sense to the SME
and the
>> other two guys who reviewed it..., who am I to come in and tweak the
>> to match my own grammatical style and then ask them, 'Hey, did I change
>> meaning much when I rewrote it this way?'"

Indeed, you ought NOT to "tweak the wording to match my own grammatical
Fix errors, yes; clear up ambiguities, yes; worry about "style", only if you
have a lot of
time on your hands.

I don't think you are being "picky", but I also agree with the response that
you need to
"know thy product". If that is too specific, then "know thy industry".

When I read the two definitions, the first thing that struck me was "direct
current has no
frequency; the 2 things are mutually exclusive, direct vs alternating
current". So, indeed,
there is a problem, and one not addressed by your colleague's grammatical
(changing "welding control" to "method of controlling welding"). I know
about welding, but I know enough about electricity to know that. And so
should you,
if you are working in an electrical industry. I would say that such
knowledge is the
equivalent of being functionally literate, and just as important as being
grammatically literate.

As we found out in later postings, what you have is method of controlling
direct current
by a medium-frequency signal. The definition DID need to be amended.

In summary, when a writer has the feeling that things aren't quite correct,
they often aren't,
though the writer may think the problem is grammar, or style, when it is
actually semantic
(the meaning of the words present, or, as in this case, the words missing).
This requires BOTH a good feel for language and meaning AND the technology.

That's why they call us "technical writers"

Christopher Knight, Technical Communicator
E-mail: cknight -at- netcom -dot- ca

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